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Could you give your view on the tension between businesses interests in maximizing...

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granny54 | Student, College Freshman | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted August 26, 2013 at 6:11 AM via web

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Could you give your view on the tension between businesses interests in maximizing profits and the public’s interest in receiving complete, truthful, and non-misleading information about products that they purchase?

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted August 26, 2013 at 10:56 AM (Answer #1)

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The whole objective of business is to maximize and increase profits. When morality and ethics undergird this principle, the tension between profits and honest disclosure is not very great.

To understand this, think for example of a person ordering a new carriage to be built in the 1600s or 1700s as people did for upcoming weddings. The carriage builder is motivated by profit, yet, because the product will be directly connected to the builder and will be directly connected to the customer and their safety on the road, morality and ethics played a large part in the process and tempered to avarice for profit. In other words, if anything went wrong with the carriage or if a safety defect on the carriage caused injury or loss of life, there was a direct connection of liability and responsibility back to the known builder.

In our much more complex society today, the connection of liability and responsibility between builder/manufacturer and customer is anonymous, not known; is indirect through suppliers and distributors; is collective, not individual since thousands if not millions of identical products are made for myriad customers.

Because of this oblique (i.e., not direct) connection, the imperative for moral and ethical disclosure is diluted and diffuse, thus it is weakened and in some cases neglected altogether as in the cases of the tobacco industry and Enron. While there is the same imperative now as there has always been to incorporate honest disclosure into the agenda and the planning for profit maximization and increase, circumstances have diluted the delivery and realization of that imperative. As a consequence, the tension between profits and honest disclosure is very (even extremely) great.

To understand this, think of the inclusion of toxic volatile organic chemicals, like phthalates, in cosmetic products and in common household products, like counter-top dish drainers and washing-up tubs, and in pet supplies, like feeding bowls. There was no disclosure at all of the inclusion of these chemicals or of the vast harm they cause and, consequently, many people and pets have been irreparably harmed. This illustrates how high the tension between profits and disclosure is today.

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